Jeremy Samuelson, an environmental advocate from the Group for the East End, visited the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday to discuss the health of Lake Montauk, but the conversation swiftly turned to this week’s hot topic: Peter Kalikow’s application to extend a dock — that some believe is already illegal — an additional 15 feet into the lake.
Mr. Kalikow, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is seeking a natural resources permit and a variance to extend the dock and legalize an existing boatlift.
The committee agreed by resolution to write to the East Hampton Town Board and the zoning board urging them to not just deny the application for the dock extension but recommending that Mr. Kalikow be made to remove it altogether. They also agreed to ask that the boards deny Mr. Kalikow’s request that the boatlift (which he had installed without a permit for his motorboat, a speedboat of the so-called cigarette type) be made legal.
Jay Fruin, a committee member who lives on East Lake Drive and who has been appointed to the Lake Montauk Watershed Committee, told the citizens group that the engines in Mr. Kalikow’s boat are enormous. “When he fires them up you can hear it. That alone is probably killing all of the eelgrass seedlings,” he said. “There is no way extending that dock makes any sense to anyone in this room except to him.”
The dock, which has caused controversy since it was built in 1990, was approved by the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals in 1988 after the Concerned Citizens of Montauk and others strongly opposed it. One argument used against it was that if one resident were allowed to build a dock, others around the lake would want them, too, potentially jamming up the waterway and leaving little room for other uses.
Mr. Kalikow has a vacation house on Star Island and recently battled with neighbors when he fenced off a portion of beach that had been used by the public for many years.
Mr. Samuelson said the dock, at an estimated 1,600 square feet, is already about four times the size allowed by law. “That’s a huge red flag for me.” He said that when biologists studied the area before the dock was built they had been concerned about the impact of a structure that size on the eelgrass bed, upon which many species (including flounder) rely.
“It’s not enough that they’ve already killed an acre of eelgrass, but now we’re going to expand it? I didn’t believe it 10 years ago, and I don’t believe it now. There is no benefit to the eelgrass. There is no benefit to shellfish. There is no benefit to the neighbors, and there is no benefit to the community,” he said.
Richard Kahn, a retired attorney and a member of both the lake advisory committee and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said that giving Mr. Kalikow a variance to expand the dock and legalize the boatlift would set a bad precedent. “How can the Z.B.A. possibly say no to the other 157 residents?” he asked rhetorically, referring to the number of houses around the lake. “It’s a very serious risk. The permit said you should not build the dock. He gave them the finger and expanded the dock.”
Mr. Kalikow’s lawyer, Eric Bregman, a former East Hampton Town attorney, has said that the longer dock is needed because the boat sits in shallow water and its propeller scrapes the bottom at low tide, disturbing native plant life. He contends that extending the dock would relieve that.
In a follow-up phone call, Mr. Samuelson pointed out that on March 15, the East Hampton Town Board revitalized the Lake Montauk Watershed Committee and appointed 15 members to study the lake’s current state.
In addition to Mr. Fruin, those committee members include experts in the fields of ecology and natural resources; town officials, including East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Town Trustee Joe Bloecker; and several other Montauk residents, including Rav Freidel, Keith Grimes, James Hewitt, Julia Evans Brunn, Perry B. Duryea III, Bill Grimm, and Henry Uihlein.
“The lake is dying,” Mr. Samuelson said. “It’s really crying out for a study to move forward and reach a scientifically valid conclusion. We have to quantify and understand the negative impacts so we can sit down to the serious work of saving Lake Montauk.”
The destruction to the lake is being caused, he said, by pathogens and nitrogen loading, sediment, road and storm-water runoff, habitat loss, leakage from septic systems, and a lack of adequate tidal flushing. “If people think that dredging the channel and inlet will solve the problem, I caution them that that is not all that needs to be done,” he said.